BILL ANALYSIS SENATE COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION Gloria Romero, Chair 2009-2010 Regular Session BILL NO: AB 544 AUTHOR: Coto AMENDED: May 13, 2009 FISCAL COMM: Yes HEARING DATE: July 1, 2009 URGENCY: No CONSULTANT:Beth Graybill SUBJECT : Teacher credentialing: American Indian Languages. SUMMARY: This bill establishes the American Indian languages credential that will authorize people fluent in American Indian languages to teach those languages in public schools. BACKGROUND Existing law authorizes the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) to establish and implement guidelines for alternative assessments for languages other than English performed by organizations that are experts in the language and culture assessed. The Native American Languages Act of 1990 states it is the policy of the United States to "allow exceptions to teacher certification requirements for Federal programs and programs funded in whole or in part by the Federal government, for instruction in Native American languages when such teacher certification requirements hinder the employment of qualified teachers who teach Native American languages, and to encourage State and territorial governments to make similar exceptions." ANALYSIS This bill : 1) Requires the CTC, upon the recommendation of a tribal government of a federally recognized Indian tribe in California, to issue an American Indian languages credential to candidates who have met the following requirements: AB 544 Page 2 a) Demonstrated fluency in that tribe's language based on an assessment, as specified. b) Successful completion of a criminal background check. c) Submits an application, credential fee, and recommendation for the credential to the CTC through the federally recognized Indian tribe. 2) Prohibits the holder of an American Indian languages credential, who does not also have a valid teaching credential issued by the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC), from teaching any subject other than the American Indian language for which he or she is credentialed. 3) Specifies that the American Indian languages credential shall be issued initially for a two-year period and may be renewed for an additional three-year period, after which time, the candidate is eligible, upon recommendation of the tribal government in consultation with the applicant's public school employer, for a clear teaching credential for the specified language. 4) Encourages each federally recognized American Indian tribe to develop a written and oral assessment and specifies that in developing the assessment, an Indian tribe should determine: a) Which dialects will be included in the assessment; b) Whether the tribe will standardize its writing system; c) The standard of knowledge and fluency required to qualify for the credential; and, d) The standards for effective teaching methods to be evaluated in the classroom. 5) Requires a tribe recommending a candidate for the American Indian languages credential to develop and administer a technical assistance program that is provided by other teachers credentialed in an American Indian language, as specified. AB 544 Page 3 6) Requires school personnel responsible for evaluating teachers to provide American Indian languages credential holders with information on the evaluation process and the California Standards for the Teaching Profession. 7) Makes findings and declarations regarding the importance of preserving American Indian languages as part of our national heritage; and, that teaching American Indian languages is essential to the education of American Indian children. STAFF COMMENTS 1. Heritage language instruction . The CTC issues single subject teaching credentials authorizing the instruction of Languages Other than English (LOTE) in various different languages. Current law requires teachers who earn this credential to meet the following requirements: a) Possession of a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution of higher education. b) Demonstration of subject matter competency by completing a CTC-approved undergraduate program in the language or by passing a CTC-approved examination that assesses the candidate's knowledge and proficiency in that language. c) Completion of a teacher preparation program, and d) Passage of a criminal and background check. Because there are no undergraduate programs or assessments available for many of less commonly taught languages, the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) has adopted alternative assessment options to enable individuals who want to teach these languages to meet the subject matter competency requirement. While CTC has an option for American Indian languages that includes a locally developed and administered language assessment process, candidates who pursue a single subject Languages Other than English (LOTE) credential in Native American languages must still meet the AB 544 Page 4 remaining credential requirements. Unlike many heritage and immigrant languages, where the language is still spoken in the "old country", the dialects and languages of many American Indian communities reside with elderly tribal members who learned their language from their parents and grandparents 60 or 70 years ago. Because of their limited access to education, few of these fluent speakers of tribal languages meet or would be able to complete the education requirements necessary for the standard single subject LOTE teaching credential. The sponsors of this bill contend that without a way for children to learn from these elders, many of these tribal languages could be lost over the next few years. To the extent that this bill enables American Indian children to learn their tribal language in public schools, this bill may help preserve and revitalize these languages. This bill removes barriers by authorizing the CTC to issue a credential specific to the instruction of American Indian languages and allowing tribes to establish the proficiency requirements for that credential through their own written and oral assessments. In so doing, this bill will make it easier for American Indian children to learn their native tribal language, regardless of the school they attend. 2. What do other states do ? At least 16 states have developed policies to allow Native American language teachers to teach in public schools. Twelve of those states involve tribes in the process of certifying, licensing, or endorsing the teachers of Indian languages for services in state public schools. This bill is consistent with that approach by requiring the CTC to issue upon the recommendation of the tribal government. 3. Highly qualified teachers . The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) requires all students to be taught by highly qualified teachers. In order to be highly qualified under NCLB, teachers must have a bachelor's degree, full state certification or licensure, and must demonstrate subject matter competency. To demonstrate subject matter competency, single subject credential candidates must have either a major in the subject they teach, AB 544 Page 5 credits equivalent to a major in the subject, or must pass a state-developed subject matter test. Because foreign language courses help students meet requirements for high school graduation and college admission, the highly qualified teacher requirement extends to teachers of languages other than English. It is unclear whether American Indian languages credential holders will be considered highly qualified as defined by No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The Native American Languages Act allows exceptions to teacher certification requirements for instruction in American Indian languages, while NCLB does not clearly exempt teachers of American Indian languages or tribes from the highly qualified requirement. 4. Technical Assistance . It may not be possible, especially initially, for a recommending tribe to provide a technical assistance program that is offered by American Indian Languages credential holders with three or more years of teaching experience. Staff recommends this section of the bill be amended to specify that whenever possible , the program should be provided by teachers credentialed in an American Indian language who have three or more years of teaching experience. 5. Fiscal impact . The CTC estimates that costs associated with developing and issuing the American Indian languages credential will be minor and absorbable. 6. Federal recognition . The Code of Federal Regulations defines a federally recognized Indian Tribe as an Indian or Alaska Native Tribe, band, nation, pueblo, village, or community that the Secretary of the Interior acknowledges to exist as an Indian Tribe pursuant to the Federally Recognized Indian Tribe List Act of 1994. Federally-recognized tribes have a "government-to-government" relationship with the United States and possess certain inherent powers of self-government and entitlement to certain federal benefits and services through the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs. SUPPORT Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians California Association of Tribal Governments AB 544 Page 6 California Tribal Business Alliance Commission on Teacher Credentialing Elk Valley Rancheria Individual letters Inter-Tribal Council of California Ione Band of Miwok Indians Karuk Tribe Klamath-Trinity Joint Unified School District Lytton Band of Pomo Indians Morongo Band of Mission Indians Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians Rumsey Band of Wintun Indians of California San Manual Band of Serrano Mission Indians Tribal Alliance of Sovereign Indian Nations Tubatulabals of Kern Valley Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians Winnemem Wintu Tribe OPPOSITION None received.